By Lin Noueihed and Ahmed Mohammed Hassan
CAIRO (Reuters) – Libyan factions have tentatively agreed on an Egyptian-brokered roadmap to heal divisions, Egypt said, though the failure to engineer a meeting between two key figures has cast a shadow on the diplomatic push.
The deal comes after months of diplomatic efforts by Egypt, culminating this week with visits by Prime Minister Fayez Seraj of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar, a military commander supported by eastern factions.
After meeting separately with senior Egyptian military officials the two men had been set to sit together in a session late on Tuesday, then failed to meet due to last-minute differences.
Three Egyptian sources involved in the talks told Reuters that Seraj and Haftar had agreed to honour a plan to create a joint committee to negotiate reconciliation and elections by February 2018, despite lingering tensions.
“The two sides have agreed. I have doubts about the implementation as the atmosphere between them is … tense but we hope the opposite happens,” said one of the sources.
Seraj said in a statement late on Wednesday that he had been informed of Haftar’s refusal to meet “without the provision of any justifications.”
“We hoped that it would be an entry point to a solution to end the state of division and lift suffering of the nation and the people,” he said. Despite this, he said, “we affirm that we are moving forward in our efforts for reconciliation and to end the crisis.”
Concerned about the spread of chaos from its western neighbour, Egypt has made stabilising Libya a priority and has hosted a flurry of meetings in recent months bringing together Libyan politicians from east and west.
The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord’s (GNA) leadership, the Presidential Council, is made up of nine members who are meant to represent different geographical regions and political groupings within Libya.
But the U.N.-backed Council has been bitterly divided, with two of its number mostly boycotting proceedings, and different members regularly issuing contradictory statements.